One thing that’s evident is how collaborative St. Louis’s food people are. Chefs and restaurant owners often work together on pop-ups and mash-ups and take-overs. And at any given moment, you’ll spot a restaurant offering a special food item created with another restaurant such as a special burger or pizza. I often see chefs giving shout-outs to restaurants at which they are enjoying meals and really, never hear restaurant professionals bashing their competition.
Between the classics, openings, and collaborations, we’re never going to run out of places to try during our time here.
Sameem Afghan Restaurant quickly rose to the top of our “must try” list. I kept reading enthusiastic reviews and blog posts such as this one by Good Food STL. According to Sameem’s website, it’s the only Afghan restaurant in Missouri. Before our visit, Jake had never tried Afghan food before; technically I had.
Years ago, my family and I dined at Da Afghan located near my childhood home in Bloomington, MN before it closed in 2010. My parents were hesitant to stray to far from Applebee’s and Marie Callender’s. Their friends raved about Da Afghan so highly that they volunteered to take me there for lunch. I remember dipping fresh bread into a tart and spicy green sauce. It was like a revelation.
We encountered a similar green sauce at Sameem.
Sameem recently relocated and expanded its space. Although more seating is available than the previous location, it’s a smaller restaurant and very popular. I’d recommend calling ahead to RSVP. The restaurant was packed with large and small groups, alike, this Saturday evening. We felt lucky to snag an open table.
We started our meal with Traditional Afghan Bolani Bread. It reminded us of crispy eggroll wrappers stuffed with a shredded potato and green onion mixture. The appetizer arrived hot from the frying pan. We gently dipped each slice into the spicy green chutney. Later, we ordered more green sauce and dipped everything into it.
The chutney’s tartness contrasted well with the bread’s oily crispness. We alternated bites with sips of yogurt beverages. I ordered a mango lassi and Jake chose dough, a salty, yogurt drink. At first we found the salty yogurt drink strange but it quickly grew from unusual to refreshing. It tasted a little bit like buttermilk infused with dried mint. I liked it so much that I wished I had ordered dough instead of my typical favorite mango lassi.
Recipes for dough look easy to make at home. This one blends yogurt, water, mint, and cucumber.
We shared two entrees: The Afghan Beriani and Curry Beef.
Sameem’s curry beef reminded me of our favorite versions of Indian Tikka Masala. The menu describes the beef as cooked in a sauce made from onion, tomatoes, chilies, homemade Tekha masala sauce and cilantro. There wasn’t anything we didn’t like about the meltingly tender beef and rich, round sauce.
The beriani with chicken was unlike anything we’ve ever tasted before. As noted on the menu description, the chicken and rice dish is seasoned with black pepper, green and brown cardamom, clove, turmeric, cumin, paprika, dill seed, dried papaya and garlic. The dish was drizzled with a ladle of mild potato and pea sauce. The first few bites had me wavering. I found the fragrant spices unusual. I wasn’t sure if I liked it and wished I had asked if it could be prepared extra spicy. Soon we found found ourselves beginning to sweat. The beriani’s slow burn caught up with us and we kept returning for more tastes until it was almost gone.
Jake would order it again. I’m a sucker for rich, saucy curries. Next time I’d try another.
Dining at Sameem feels like enjoying a meal at a good friend’s home. We look forward to returning for more of that bolani and further explore the menu.
Sameem does not serve alcohol, however, it looked like you could bring your own. Call 314-534-9500 for more information or to RSVP.